Skeptical of Productivity Study On Fantasy Football

By Dr. Duru written for One-Twenty

August 19, 2006


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Numerous media outlets dutifully released a Reuters feed ringing the following alarm to American managers across the country: "Fantasy football sacks office productivity, survey says." The big problem with these news stories is that they focus on the headlines and executive summaries of the report at hand and contain absolutely no critical analysis. Now that I have just finished preparing for my upcoming fantasy football drafts, I thought I would fill the skeptic gap.

The aforementioned study was recently released by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, "the nation's first, oldest and premier outplacement consulting organization." They are the same outfit that warned us earlier this year that March Madness could cost the country $3.8 BILLION in lost productivity - and they called that estimate conservative. Now, I let that study ride without comment, but this jab at fantasy football is the last straw.

Challenger has not yet made public the details of this study, so I have to base my skepticism on the teasers in the Reuters feed and the kind of analysis Challenger did on March Madness. Here is the core of the economic analysis that produces at least $500 million in lost work productivity: "The study takes the estimated number of fantasy football participants -- a fast-growing 36.8 million -- and multiplies that number by their average earnings every 10 minutes, about $6. Challenger's calculation assumes participants spend 10 minutes per day, or almost an hour a week, drafting players, setting rosters and plotting strategy at the office. A more conservative estimate places the weekly lost productivity number at $500 million." Incredible that a mere 10 minutes a day can product such catastrophic losses across the nation's workplace, eh?

Well, the biggest problem I have with this analysis is that it assumes that workers ADD fantasy football to the list of all the other non-productive activities they do during the day. A HUGE assumption. We fantasy football folks are fanatics, so all other work distractions bow down in comparison. If managing the team means cutting out 10 minutes of idle, nonsensical blather at the water cooler, then so be it. If a fanatic has to spend 10 minutes fewer shopping on-line (I have heard this is the largest personal on-line activity done at work), then so be it! You see where I am going? Americans already have plenty of non-productive minutes or maybe even hours at work. Ten minutes, heck thirty minutes, of fantasy football at work can easily squeeze out a whole host of time wasters. And we are the better for it.

My next problem with Challenger's study is that assumes workers replace worktime with personal time to deal with urgencies of fantasy football. For people who have to hit milestones and deadlines, any time spent at work not working must be made up on personal time. The work vs personal all balances out in the end. If a person only needs 10 minutes a day, he or she might choose to squeeze it into their lunch break instead of losing work time, for example.

Finally, anyone who knows football knows that managing your team is most effective after a full day of practice, training, etc... has happened. For example, at the end of the day you might first get news updating the injury status of one of your key players. This means that there is another contingent of folks who will fiddle with their fantasy football after their work is done for the day. If you wait until the morning to get the news - hoping you can take care of business first thing at work - your wily competitors may have already jumped the gun on ya. So, again, Challenger's alarm feels even more like fluff.

So, what does Challenger recommend that concerned employers do to make sure they get their fare share of labor? Well, when Challenger issued the warning about March Madness, they actually recommended that employers not do anything, except perhaps block basketball sites from the company's network. The rationale is that managers could twist March Madness into a workplace morale booster. They come up with a hilarious list of ideas for enhancing this booster effect. You will have to read it for yourself. The recommendation for action on this fantasy football threat smells very similar. In fact, it appears the Fantasy Sports Trade Association sponsored a poll that suports the idea that fantasy sports increase morale at the workplace. Sure the FSTA is biased, but hey, that should count for some return against the alleged $500 million in losses right? Sure enough, Challenger seems to fall right in line with the fantasy football enthusiast's interests on this morale thing.

The net of all this madness? I say remain skeptical. In fact, ignore the whole study and continue business as usual. America has recovered from worse workplace maladies, some of them real. Now, if companies choose to outsource more work to countries where the people are unfortunately unaware of the joys of fantasy football, well then, that will change things!

Be careful out there...and don't forget your fantasy cheat sheets!

DrDuru, 2006